THUNDER BAY – Don Rusnak says Question Period has nothing on standing in front of a class full of elementary students looking for answers.
The MP for Thunder Bay-Rainy River on Wednesday continued his quest to visit every school in his expansive riding, fielding inquiries from 10- and 11-year-olds in Grade 5 and 6 at St. Vincent School.
“What kind of issues do you deal with?” one student shouted out.
“Most of the issues I deal with are issues that the larger municipalities deal with,” Rusnak replied. “Often times we deal with requests for funding for roads or bridges or sewer projects.
“Do you like your job?”another student asked.
“I love my job,” Rusnak said. “It’s incredibly rewarding.”
Rusnak, recently named parliamentary secretary to the minister of Indigenous services, said it’s important to teach children while their young about the importance politics plays in their everyday lives while explaining the mechanics that make government work.
“Children are our future,” Rusnak said. “Children aren’t only our future, they’re our now. It’s important to listen to the issues they have because the decisions we make affect everyone in society.”
Encouraging them to be involved at such a young age will only further encourage them to stay involved as adults, and either run for office or vote in elections, the fundamental building blocks of Canadian political life.
Rusnak said he was surprised at the range of questions coming from the pre-teen students.
“It was not what I expected. They had some in-depth questions regarding my role and responsibilities,” Rusnak said, “especially with my new role. It was not exactly what I expected from a Grade 5 or 6 class.”
Ten-year-old Ben Turner said he was particularly glad he got a chance to ask a local politicians questions.
“When we’re adults we’ll know how to vote properly and how to run for a place in the government when we’re older if we want to,” Ben said.
“My favourite part was being able to get information and answers about questions about the government.
Classmate Jessica Polito said she learned politicians are people too.
“I learned that it was difficult for him to do part of his job,” she said. “I think it’s important that he shows the children what he does and maybe if they want to be what he is, they can learn from what he told them.”
Aidan Turner, a Grade 5 teacher at the Northwood-area school, said it was great for students to see what politicians are like and maybe find some inspiration from Rusnak.
“I think it’s important for all kids to understand how the government of Canada works,” he said. “One of our units of study in Grade 5 is government and I think it’s important for kids to know it’s their right and responsibility for them to vote and that the government works for us.”